Senate Dems back increase in air travel fee to close funding shortfall at TSA

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday moved forward with legislation to increase airline passenger security fees, beating back a GOP attempt to keep them at current levels.

The 2013 Homeland Security appropriations bill would increase one-way fees for passengers from $2.50 to $5 in order to close a budget shortfall at the Transportation Security Administration.

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said the $315 million in funding would otherwise come from taxpayers and argued it is better to stick passengers who rely on TSA with the bill.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) sponsored an amendment to strip out the fee increase and offset the loss of revenue with cuts to state and local grants, emergency food and shelter funding, and dropping $89 million in funding for a new highway interchange leading to the Homeland Security’s new headquarters in southeast Washington, D.C. Hutchison noted that the Senate had decided not to increase the fees in the recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.

That amendment was defeated on a 15-15 vote. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) joined Republicans in supporting the measure to strip out the fee increase.

Hutchinson joined Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) in voting against the DHS bill as a whole. Johnson and Moran have been voting against non-defense 2013 appropriations bills. Johnson has said his votes are protesting the lack of a Senate budget resolution. The other Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee have all voted to support the August debt ceiling deal levels.

The committee on Tuesday also approved the 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, traditionally the least controversial of all 12 annual spending bills. The vote was 30-0.

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